Sierra Leoneís President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma last Monday received Saudi Arabiaís Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud of the Ďhighly reputedí Kingdom Holding Company, (KHC) at the Presidential Lounge, Lungi International Airport.
His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Alwaleed visited Sierra Leone to explore investment opportunities. His business holding company covers Tourism, Banking, Estate Development, Hospitality, Telecom, Agriculture, Information Technology, Broadcasting, Media, Entertainment, Travel, Automotive Manufacturing and other businesses.
The Prince was accompanied by a highĖpowered delegation that included Dr. Khalid Almansour, Adviser-Africa to HRH the Chairman, Dr. Nahla Nasser Alanbar, Private Executive Assistant to HRH the Chairman, Ms. Hassna Alturki, Department Head, Travel and External Affairs, Mr. Hani Agha, Senior Manager for Travel and External Affairs, Mr. Mohammed Alfaraj, Assistant Manager, for Travel and External Affairs and Mr. Fahad Bin Saad Bin Nafel, Executive Assistant to HRH the Chairman and Mr. Hassan Mukhtar, Advisor to HRH the Chairman, Mr. Naief Alzuhair, Manager Website & Social Media, Corporate Communications Department, to name but a few.
During the visit, His Excellency President Ernest Bai Koroma decorated His Royal Highness with the highest National Award in the country, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic of Sierra Leone (GCRSL).
After the visit, I rang up Hon. Alhaji Alpha Sahid Bakar Kanu, the Minister of Information and Communications who also doubles as the Official Government Spokesman and asked him if the visit was successful. This is what he had to say:
Hon. Alpha Kanu
Yes, the visit was very successful. Our President, His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma was accompanied by top-ranking Government Ministers and a good number of senior Government officials to welcome the Prince at the Lungi International Airport.¬†
As a nation, we are very happy for the visit of the Prince. We think it is an opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Sierra Leone.
We have also been impressed with the Princeís philanthropy because when the President told him about his vision for improving the Free Health Care Initiative in the country for Children under-five, lactating mothers and pregnant women, including youth empowerment, the Prince donated one million dollars each for the two programmes through Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation.¬† And he promised to do more when he has more details. On the investment side, the Prince has been given a presentation of all the opportunities that exist in Sierra Leone in the areas of tourism, mining, oil exploration, fisheries, real estate, energy, to name but a few. The next step is that, he promised to come back, but before that, he would send an advance team to work with the Sierra Leonean people to identify areas of mutual interest for investment. He also promised to get involved in the charitable organizations and the financing of women and the youth. So, the visit has been a very good and successful one.
On his departure, the Prince and the President concluded a lot of things- which all big men and heads of state talk about. We were not privy to that meeting. But we believe whatever decisions were made during that closed Ėdoor meeting, would be in the best interest of the Kingdom Holding Company and the people of Sierra Leone.
So, what do Sierra Leoneans resident here in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf make of the Visit?
Uthman Kargbo is the President of the Sierra Leone Nationalsí Union in Saudi Arabia.¬† Hear him: It is the duty of every patriotic citizen to embrace and welcome such remarkable visit. Sierra Leoneans in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have been longing to see people like Prince Al-waleed Bin Talal investing in Sierra Leone.¬†
The Saudi Prince is a prominent worldwide investor and his visit to Sierra Leone will be sighted as the beginning of a new epoch of massive investment opportunities in the country. As a business tycoon, it is believed that Prince Alwaleed would find in Sierra Leone the right place to establish his business shrewdness.
I am sure, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma must have objectively persuaded his honourable guest that he (the Prince) will have in Sierra Leone all that he needs in terms of expanding his business empire across the African Continent and he would give Prince Alwaleed all the assurances that, in Sierra Leone, he will have all the support required to make his businesses boom to his satisfaction.
From what we have heard, President Koroma and his competent Officials have presented to the Prince well-tailored and worthwhile projects.¬† The Prince is a very shrewd investor. And I am pretty sure that he would not hesitate to avail himself of any investment opportunities which he thinks would be profitable and of interest to both parties. Sierra Leoneans all over the Arab Gulf states canít wait to see the Prince taking his investment opportunities to Sierra Leone in the not too distant future.
Dr. Sorie Gassama- King Saud University
For Dr. Sorie Gassama, a lecturer at the King Saud University, the Princeís visit to Sierra Leone should be considered as a maraca at this point in time. This, the erudite Doctor says, is especially so, considering the fact that President Koroma is a selfless and progressive individual who has made the forward thrusting of Sierra Leone a priority. Let us all pray that he continues to be guided in the right path. As is, being a Sierra Leonean, I see it as my duty to suggest hypercritical areas that His Excellency should consider doing business with the Prince. Having lived in Riyadh for the past one year, and seeing what the Prince has invested in, I can tell with no doubts that the Prince is more interested in the area of tourism than anything else.
This can be seen in the investments that he has made in putting up sky-scrappers. One such is the Kingdom Tower, a modern mall, like no other in the middle of the city that goes unnoticed. He has tons of investments of the like that are frequented by tourists. Having him rehabilitate our once admirable, but presently dilapidated beaches will pay dividends. Additionally, have him take a look and see if he can invest in developing those areas closer to the ocean in Freetown that are currently occupied by squatters and pigs.
With the right investment, these very places can create a lot of jobs, and bring in tons of millions of dollars every year by way of tourism. Take a lesson from Parisians, Clean those areas, and rid them of squatters and pigs, construct three star hotels, invest in wet boats that can take tourists along the peninsula on sight seeing missions for a fee. These done, Freetown will soon be full of tourists bringing in hard currencies with a reduction in unemployment or possibly bringing a total end to unemployment taking into account the countryís population.
In Paris, the Seine River that divides the city into two is used to this advantage. It is a project that contributed a whole lot to mass employment of Parisians, and undoubtedly brings in a lot of money. Having said that, my advice is for all Sierra Leoneans to put the love of their country ahead of any love they may have for their political parties. After all, it is Sierra Leone that matters.
Ibrahim Sillah - King Saud University¬†
Ibrahim Sillah also lectures at the same University and he is also an Ex-President of the Sierra Leone Nationalsí Union here in Saudi Arabia. He has no doubt that HRH, Prince Alwaleedís visit to Sierra Leone at this point in time signifies a lot.
It is significant in the sense that it comes at a time when Sierra Leone is being governed by an astute and visionary leader in the person of His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. And I do believe that the Saudi Billionaire Prince would not have accepted President Koromaís invitation if he were not sure that he would be in good hands. The fact of the matter is Alwaleed has heard a lot of success stories about President Koroma. Hence, he has viewed the Presidentís invitation as an honour that should, by no means, slip by; rather, it is an opportunity that he should gleefully grab.
I believe the two men must have had a golden opportunity to constructively and objectively discuss a host of business and investment issues in a calm and friendly atmosphere.¬† This is not the Princeís first to Sierra Leone. His maiden visit was in 2003. But this time around, I learnt that the Saudi Prince found that the ground work for the success of his visit had been well-prepared by technocrats and foresighted members of President Koromaís Government.¬†
I am sure that Prince Alwaleed was overwhelmed by the degree and level of maturity and statesmanship he uncovered in the President of Sierra Leone. That telling impression on the Prince would propel him beyond any aorta of hesitation or doubt to heavily invest in Sierra Leone; for he would find out that, at the end of the day, he stands to lose nothing.
Rather, he stands all the chances to enrich his Kingdom Holding Company (KHC) and maximize its revenues in abundance. In fact, I have the gut-feeling that this historic visit of Prince Alwaleed will be not only¬†¬† a catalyst for long-term business relations between his company and Sierra Leone, but would also be a great booster to the already existing diplomatic and bilateral between Sierra Leone and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Who knows, it may hopefully culminate in Saudi Arabia opening a Saudi embassy in Freetown; a dream that has long been harboured and nurtured by Sierra Leoneans. That done, Sierra Leone would forever be thankful to HRH, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the man who has been twice characterized by Forbes Magazine as ĎThe Most Intelligent and Creative Investor Ďin our todayís world.
Many thanks to President Koroma and his formidable officials for the spectacular resounding red-carpet welcome they accorded to HRH, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. That befitting welcome, I am pretty sure, must have had a telling impressing on the Saudi Prince; his hopes and aspirations of having a durable and professional work relationship with His Excellency, the President, and must have been reassured. This was, no doubt, evident in the swift philanthropic gestures he made by donating two millions USD to two very important sectors of the society, the women and the youth.
In addition, to further buttress his appreciation of his historic encounter with President Koroma and the golden investment opportunities presented to him, Prince Alwaleed has committed himself to sending a professional team that would come to Sierra Leone in the not-too-distant future to make feasibility studies and make its recommendations as to which area(s) he should best pour in his investments. That fulfilled, Sierra Leoneans would soon be mesmerized to witness the magnitude of investments and job opportunities Sierra Leone would soon be saturated with by Prince Alwaleed and other investors in the Gulf Region and around the world.
In conclusion, I salute His Excellency, President Koroma, his competent officials, Sierra Leoneís envoy to Saudi Arabia, Ambassador Wusu B. Munu, and His Excellencyís indefatigable and most professional Information Attachť, Alhaji M.B. Jalloh, who has been a catalyst behind rebranding and marketing Sierra Leone in this most vital region of the world. BRAVO for a job well-done, President Koroma.
¬© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.